I like to watch a show on A&E called Paranormal State. A team of students from Penn State investigate hauntings using what equipment they have available, a couple of psychic mediums they will bring to the sight, and expertise from the paranormal world such as the author/investigator of The Amittyville Horror. Ryan Buell is the team leader, and I take him with a grain of salt because I believe he has an ego that gets in the way of an effective investigation from time to time. But the evidence they've gathered over some of the shows is impressive and not concrete and proof positive. When something happens such as a chair moving, they are not quick to say a ghost did it, but usually say "it's not conclusive evidence, but the timing is pretty coincidental."
I like the fact that they don't come out and say... "I SAW a ghost." But are willing to believe that there is a possibility of a paranormal activity. And what I can say is, "I did not see a ghost." But let me tell you my story.
It was late in the summer of 1993, and I was hired on to finish the last month of the forestry season at Hart Lake Tower in the Northwest Territories. The tower is situated about sixty kilometres west of the small community of Enterprise, just two kilometres off of the Mackenzie Highway. The tower location overlooks a seventy five foot escarpment and has a great view of the forest from Hay River to the Mackenzie River. You can see the Great Slave Lake from here and can see the seventeen storey apartment building in Hay River some 26 aeronautical miles away with you bare eyes. It's quite a picturesque view.
I only had about a week left of my month at the tower. I had explored the cabin where I was staying, the storage shed nearby and the surrounding area by foot. The sixty foot tower had only a cupola but gave an even better view of the surrounding forest.
The evening in question I had been writing letters by candle light at the kitchen table to my friends back in BC where I was planning on returning after my job was done. Taking a break to go to the washroom (located handily about eighty feet from the cabin, also called an outhouse), I enjoyed the quiet night air. The clouds were hanging so low that the flashlight beam looked solid in the air, and the clouds looked within reach from the cupola of my tower. The clouds were so thick that there was no moonlight, no stars and it was completely dark. The darkness also hushed the woods as no creature made a sound, as if any movement would make their presence known to predators. The highway nearby was also silent as it was after midnight and when the Mackenzie River ferry shuts down for the night... so does the traffic.
But the darkness wasn't scary, it was comforting. And the silence wasn't eerie, it was peaceful. What I'm saying is that my imagination was not influenced by the environment. I do have an imagination, but I was not in the least letting my imagination wander.
So, after I returned to the cabin and sat at the kitchen table, I continued on with writing a letter to one of my friends. My back was to the door and the only light in my cabin was the candle by which I was writing. When inexplicably I could smell cologne. I thought that was odd because in my exploration of the cabin I found no cologne and I didn't bring any cologne (after all, there were no women here to impress). I chalked the odor up to my imagination and continued writing, mentally choosing to ignore the smell.
It was as if my thoughts were as plain to read as the headlines of a newspaper, because the smell got stronger as if saying, "Don't ignore me." Instantaneously the hairs on my arms, neck and cheek stood on end, and I indeed recognized the cologne as Old Spice. I also felt like the someone wearing the cologne was standing right behind me between me and the door (also the only exit to the cabin). I slowly turned my head around to glance behind me, I guess to prove there was no one standing there as I felt and that I wasn't a coward. I didn't see anything between me and the door and yet I felt like someone was still there. I turned my head back in the direction of the letter and pen (still in hand) and even spoke out loud to this 'spirit.'
"Grandpa (I called it Grandpa because the smell automatically made me think of my Grandpa who died when I was about thirteen), I'm a little busy right now. Could you come back later?"
Trust me, I really didn't want it to come back later, and I sounded like a young man very unsure of himself speaking this out loud isolated for miles and miles with no vehicle. But as soon as I finished speaking it, the scent disappeared and so did the sense of a presence behind me.
I spoke out loud again, "Ooooookay! It's time for bed."
I blew out the candle and felt my way in complete darkness to the bed, I felt absolutely terrified of even looking in the direction of the dresser mirror by my bed... afraid I'd see something, even though it was completely pitch dark. I crawled into bed, covered my head with the blankets and listened to the silence and the blood pumping through my ears. Eventually, after a long while, I fell asleep.
Nothing happened for the rest of my stay. Two seasons later I returned to Hart Lake Tower and stayed for the entire season not experiencing anything more.
I did find out that was an elder Native gentleman who worked at Hart Lake Tower and even called the place home, even though eight months of the year he resided in Hay River. He died previous to my first stay at the Tower, and I don't know whether I was his replacement or just finishing off the season for someone else.
It's not unusual for Native people to call their elders Grandpa or Grandma even if there is no relation, and it's not considered disrespectful to do so. So, I think that perhaps that spirit thought I was addressing him. I don't think my Grandfather chose Hart Lake Tower to come visit me.
So perhaps I have a paranormal sniffer because the next story also involves scent.
A plane was reported missing with my friend on board. A fellow musician and friend since high school. He was always friendly and would stop to chat with me. He had listened to my tape I had put together of my singing at Karaoke bars and encouraged me to keep performing. We had jammed together and he always wanted to collaborate on a project together. Despite his popularity with his friends, elders, youth, and the community, he could always make you feel like the center of attention.
His plane didn't arrive and it was reported missing December 31st, 2001 (an easy day to remember). I remember being at work shortly after New Year's waiting for word on the plane. All day I was thinking of him and imagining that he was at the plane wreckage playing fiddle around a fire that he had built keeping the other passengers warm and entertained. Near the end of my shift, I was informed that his plane was found and there were no survivors. Although expressionless I finished my shift, not letting the youth under my care as a young offender's officer know what I was feeling.
I got in my rental car (our vehicle was in a car accident a couple of weeks previously) started it up and drove home. And as soon as my car was on the highway, I started sobbing. I was grieving the loss of a good friend. And then I could smell the odor of someone who had been hanging around a campfire. I looked in the rear view mirror and so no one in the back seat, and then turned around to look in the back again seeing no one. I turned my attention to the road again and realized I had stopped crying and felt better. I felt like my friend had paid me a visit to let me know that he was in a better place now and that everything was good.
I know that it probably sounds cliche and that there are doubters out there who doubt such experiences, but that's okay... I'm a skeptic believer... and I've never seen ghosts.